This article has been updated from a post originally published on 1/28/19.
We won't sugarcoat it: as we get older, our health becomes a bigger concern. But does worry need to consume every minute of every day? Are we guaranteed to have an ever-growing list of serious health problems?
The answer is an overwhelming no.
The fact is, it’s possible for seniors to maintain excellent health and a high quality of life for many years after they turn 65. Like so many other good things in life, it comes down to forming the right habits and sticking to them over the long term.
Here are seven keys to maintaining good health, even in old age. By concentrating on these principles, you can stop worrying about your health and start enjoying the health you have.
Staying physically active
As we get older, it’s natural for us to tire more easily, for muscles to weaken a bit, and to lose some range of motion. But regular exercise is vital to every organ in the body and when it comes to motion, every little bit counts.
So focus on regular, daily exercise at a moderate pace, such as a 20 minute walk. It will help keep your cardiovascular system clean and healthy, strengthen bones and muscles, and maintain flexibility. Moderate exercise has also been linked to improved mood, mild pain relief, and a longer life expectancy.
Staying mentally active
Keeping our minds active is just as important as exercising our bodies. And, while physical exercise does benefit the physical brain, it’s important for older adults to exercise their minds.
This can be done by seeking out new experiences, learning new things, or changing up your routines. Relaxing with a jigsaw puzzle, crossword, or another stimulating game can do wonders as well. Reading and writing are also excellent ways to keep the mind active.
Staying socially active
Staying active socially can be a great way to bring together the physical and mental exercises already discussed, since we often enjoy time with others while involved in some sort of activity. Even lively conversation can be mentally stimulating.
But the most important benefit of remaining socially active into old age is the positive impact it has on the mood. When you’re surrounded by friends and feel like an important part of the community, you’re more motivated.
It’s also vital for older adults to seek out companionship and cultivate positive relationships with friends, family, and those in the community.
Pay attention to what goes into your body
Proper nutrition is just as important as physical exercise when it comes to maintaining strength and vitality into old age.
Remember that your basal metabolic rate (BMR) naturally declines as you age, so you will likely need fewer calories to avoid gaining weight. At the same time, it’s also natural for the appetite to slow down as we get older. It’s important to actively pursue a healthy, balanced diet every day, regardless of how hungry you feel.
And while you can still enjoy the occasional bag of chips or adult beverage, remember that at an older age, your body is less forgiving than it once was. Moderation is key to maintaining a healthy diet.
Partner with your health care team
Back in your 20s, you may have been able to get away with avoiding the doctor’s office if you weren’t sick. But as you enter your 60s or 70s, that is no longer the case.
Rather than trying to avoid doctor visits, embrace the fact that your health care team is dedicated to helping you live the fullest, healthiest and longest life possible. Make routine check-ups a priority at your primary care physician, dentist, optometrist, and any specialists you need. Share any concerns or observations with them and apply their suggestions.
If they prescribe a medication, follow their instructions and pay attention to how it works. Keep the lines of communication open so you can be sure you’re taking all the medications you truly need, and nothing more.
Get adequate, quality sleep
Finally, don’t ignore the importance of quality sleep. It’s very common for your body’s need for sleep to shrink as you age, but it will never disappear.
Even if you find it hard to sleep more than a few hours each night, give yourself the best possible chance of sleeping as long as necessary. You can do this by having a regular nightly routine, including a set bedtime (if possible). Make sure the room is quiet, dark, and comfortably cool.
The bottom line: By applying these principles, you’re giving your aging body the best chance at a long, healthy, and enjoyable life. That way, you can stop worrying about your health and seize the day!